GaRI: a Primer

This is the first installment of a three-part series on GaRI. This series is as much a way for me to navigate EWB’s GaRI sector as it is instructive for my readers. The individual posts will make sense on their own, but a full understanding will be achieved through reading them all:

  1. GaRI: a Primer
  2. GaRI and Decentralization
  3. My Role in GaRI

I mentioned before that GaRI (or G&RI) stands for Governance and Rural Infrastructure. Let’s break that down:

  1. Governance: the act of governing, or partitioning expectations/power through leadership and management. Generally performed by a government
  2. and: conjunction used to connect grammatically coordinate words
  3. Rural: descriptive of an area with a low population density.*
  4. Infrastructure: the basic physical and organizational structures required for the efficient functioning of a society

*- this definition hardly encompasses what I wanted it to. However, readers will get a much better understanding of the concept of “rural” throughout my placement.

With a little thought into the name, it’s obvious that EWB’s work with GaRI is related to the government of Ghana and infrastructure in rural areas. Basically, EWB is working with the Ghanaian government at different levels (more on Ghana’s government in the second installment) to improve service delivery through those local governments. A big part of EWB’s work in achieving that goal is to facilitate the design and implementation of systems and processes to structuralize evidence-based decision-making within the Ghanaian government.

Whoa, now. What the heck am I talking about? Basically, EWB works to ensure that local governments have the tools and ability to accurately report on the reality of their respective districts, so that they can receive adequate funding for infrastructure projects which will properly serve their citizens.

Analogies are powerful ways to gain understanding of things, so allow me to break it down with one.

The Dean of Engineering at your school is responsible for allocating funding for student initiatives. Your Engineering Student Society (ESS) is responsible for requesting funding for different student initiatives, but they don’t know how (or don’t care, for whatever reason) to adequately gain information about projects for which the students they represent actually want funding. As a result, the ESS only gets funding for projects that suit them and your experience as an Engineering student is ruined. You have no idea how to effectively communicate your needs as a student, because there is little to no space to do so. The Dean has no idea that you’re unsatisfied, because s/he only sees reports from your governing body–the ESS–which all state that they have been successful in improving the Engineering student experience.

Obviously this analogy is simplified greatly compared to what really happens in Ghana. Additionally, I apologize for students of other faculties for whom this analogy may be slightly less applicable. In this scenario: citizens of Ghana are represented by you, the Engineering student; the local government is represented by the ESS, as they are responsible for service delivery to you; and the central government, responsible for funding allocation via the local government, is the Dean of Engineering.

It’s obvious that there’s a gap in the middle, right? Your needs (at the bottom of the chain) as an Engineering student/Ghanaian citizen are not effectively communicated to the Dean of Engineering (at the top). EWB aims to fill that gap in the middle by giving local governments the tools, training, and partnerships required to best gain information from the bottom and report it to the top.

But, Chris, what are those tools? What kind of training does EWB supply? PARTNERSHIPS WITH WHOOOOOM?

I understand that you’re brimming with questions because I’ve done a very good job of making the nuts and bolts of GaRI seem mysterious. Fear not, faithful readers, answers are coming!

I had intended to write a post fully describing GaRI, its relation to the decentralized Ghanain government, and my work in the sector, but that post would be a novel. This is problematic. Thus, I decided on a three-part series, which is inherently confusing because these three things are very intimately related. It makes a lot of sense from a pedagogical point of view, though; kind of like teaching the Bohr-Rutherford model of the atom to students in grade 11, then admitting your (blatant) lies by introducing orbital theory in University. So, hang in there and all will be revealed as long as you keep reading :).

-C

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